The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Editorials

June 5, 2014

Carbon rules

President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency dropped its low-carbon emissions bomb Monday, generating the expected blast of opposition.

The Clean Power Plan, which is scheduled to be in place by 2030, requires states to formulate plans to reach a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels.

Plans to make that happen must be complete by June 30, 2016, with one-year extensions available.

We knew it was coming, we dreaded what we would hear. And as we expected, it wasn’t pretty.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy tried to tie a big bow around it, saying, “Coal and natural gas play a significant role. This plan does not change that.”

Except that it does.

States will have the “option” to switch to energy sources that have little to no carbon emissions including nuclear, wind and solar power.

And no doubt, that is what will happen because the expense of putting the existing emissions-reducing technology in place will be cost-prohibitive for many utilities.

The new guidelines will “spur innovation,” McCarthy adds. Perhaps. Probably likely. But from where will the funds come to pay for those innovations? Increases in utility bills?

The old coal industry slogan proclaimed “Coal is West Virginia!” Yes, and it also is Wyoming. Kentucky. Ohio. Pennsylvania. Illinois. The list goes on.

The industry employs hundreds of thousands directly in mining and hundreds of thousands more in ancilliary jobs. Take these away and what is left for these people?

Thousands more will feel the effects as the economy slows without the financial input of miners and related workers’ dollars.

We’re not against cleaner air. Change must come. But it should not be done at the expense of so many hard-working Americans.

We don’t understand why the president wants to hurt so many people. Is that really the legacy he wants to leave? And what of his successor? Will he or she change the rules on us again?

Why won’t Obama and his EPA meet with leaders of coal states and industry leaders to reach a consensus that we all can live with?

Sen. Jay Rockefeller said we should not let fear alone drive our response to the new emissions standards.

But when people’s livelihoods are on the line, why would we not?

It’s a plea that will fall on deaf ears, we are sure, but if we had our wishes, we would ask that President Obama reconsider before he does irreparable harm to West Virginia and other coal states.

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